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Embed code for: _act_iii_scene_i_discussion_questions
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Act III, Scene I
What does Claudius admit to himself (and to the audience) about his crime?
After Polonius tells Ophelia that pious words and acts can mask a truly sinful character, Claudius admits that he feels guilty and burdened by the way his own actions and words have masked his crime.
List the personal grievances Hamlet express in his "To be or not to be" soliloquy and explain what specific events in Hamlet's life they refer to.
...whips and scorns of time,[the upheaval of one social order ending and another beginning] The oppressor's wrong [Claudius' treatment of Hamlet: his refusal to allow Hamlet to return to Wittenberg, setting spies on Hamlet, etc.] the proud man's contumely, [Polonius' condescension of Hamlet and Hamlet's treatment of Ophelia] the pangs of disprized love, [Ophelia's breaking up with him] the law's delay, / The insolence of office[the fact that somehow Claudius, and not Hamlet, has become king after Hamlet's father's death] and the spurns / That patient merit of the unworthy takes, [in every way Hamlet, and before him his father, is more worthy than Claudius and Polonius, but it is Claudius and Polonius who have the power and influences.]
What metaphor does Hamlet use in his "To be or not to be" speech to express his developing understanding of death? How does he further develop this metaphor?
Hamlet metaphorically compares death to sleep. He adds to it by comparing the afterlife (especially the possibility of Hell) to bad dreams during the sleep of death.
What information does Ophelia provide about Hamlet's character before the beginning of the play?
Ophelia compares the now-obviously-mad Hamlet with the bright, funny, gentle, and genteel man Hamlet was previously. She describes him as having been a very promising Renaissance prince.
Explain the ambiguity of the nunnery scene.
Literally, a nunnery is a convent. On this level, Hamlet could actually be advising Ophelia to cloister herself away where she will escape the calamity that is to come. Also, as a nun, Ophelia will not be a "breeder of sinners," a temptress to seduce otherwise virtuous men to sin. On the other hand, nunnery is slang for brother, so Hamlet might be accusing Ophelia (and, by extension, all women) of being a prostitute.
What is the main thrust of Hamlet's diatribe against Ophelia?
Hamlet accuses Ophelia—although he is clearly talking about all women in general and his mother specifically—of being a temptress, a seductress. As is embedded in the story of Adam and Even, woman is the origin of even in the world, having tempted man into sinning. Hamlet especially attacks a woman's use of cosmetics and baby-talk to attract a man's attention.